Living (and Dying) with Our Biases During a Pandemic {Bias Day 26}
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When There’s Uncertainty

  • What’s the latest on coronavirus in schools?
  • Even after vaccinations, can we still be infected?
  • If I’ve been around a friend of a friend who was exposed, do I need to quarantine too?

So many questions. So much uncertainty. Over the past 12 months we’ve had to be mindful about even our normal daily activities.

It’s been draining.

But during these months of uncertainty, our biases have been working overtime filling in the gaps. 

We’ve looked at four more biases this week in the series, “I Just Can’t See It! How to Uncover Hidden Biases.” Let’s see how they’ve affected us as we continue to walk through a pandemic.

  • Conspiracy Bias
  • Confidence Bias
  • Normalcy Bias
  • Anchoring Bias

Our biases are mental shortcuts for our brains to make sense of life. But have our biases hurt us more than helped us?

Yes, they have. We’re not only living through a coronavirus epidemic, we’re also living through a misinformation epidemic.

Perhaps there should be a bias named for those who think they have no biases. It might be the largest group of all. 

Biases During a Pandemic  

Overcoming Our Biases During a Pandemic

Reflect on each of these biases. Can you awaken your awareness on one or all of these? How might they be affecting you? And others?

(1) Things You Need to Know About Conspiracy Theories {Bias 22}

CONSPIRACY THEORIES have tapped into our vulnerability to believe sinister stories to explain the pandemic.

Despite zero evidence for most of these theories, many people have fallen prey. But we’re all susceptible.

Conspiracy theories have made the pandemic even harder to fight. They’ve led people to be suspicious of scientists and ignore their advice. They’ve made others fearful of taking the vaccine. They’ve drawn people’s attention away from helping each other and instead further divided us along political party lines that have nothing to do with the virus itself.

Instead of coming together, we’ve been coming apart. 

To avoid falling for a conspiracy theory, we need to be vigilant about fact-checking our sources. And stay focused on the bigger picture of loving our neighbors (and our enemies) above all else.

(2) They’re So Confident, They Must Be Right—Confidence Bias {Bias 23}

CONFIDENCE BIAS draws our attention to the loudest voice in the room. We’re most likely to believe the person who is the most confident.

But there’s often a huge difference between the most confident and the most competent.

Without recognizing we have this bias, we may fall for confidence over competence. Instead of listening to the person who is the most sure about the cure for COVID-19, we need to listen to the person with the most expertise. Even if they’re humble about it. Maybe especially if they’re humble about it.

Because it’s a novel coronavirus, anyone who is overly confident with all the answers is likely to be wrong on several of them. 

(3) Think It’ll Never Happen? Is Your Head in the Sand?—Normalcy Bias {Bias 24}

NORMALCY BIAS is our tendency to ignore that we’re even in a pandemic. It took a second for our brains to accept what was going on (and some brains longer than others). Early on I often said, “I can’t believe this is really happening.”

Trouble accelerates when we can’t shake our denial, when we ignore the warning signs around us. Normalcy bias caused many to refuse to take precautionary measures against covid because this had never happened to them before, and thus shouldn’t be happening to them now.

To shake off our normalcy bias, we have to get brave and face the facts. Keeping our heads in the sand is appealing for a little while, but eventually it leaves us exposed.

“Americans put on blindfolds when they should have put on masks.”
– Nicholas A. Christakis, Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live 

(4) Beware Your Starting Point—Anchoring Bias {Bias 25}

ANCHORING BIAS is when we drop down an anchor on the information we first learned, and have trouble adding new information to it. This bias has also really hurt us during the pandemic.

We began the pandemic with very little information. The science was unclear. The data was minimal. Doctors made the best recommendations they could with the information they had, but they couldn’t know everything.

As months went by, they learned more and more. As more data came in, they updated the recommendations.

But people with the most anchoring bias had trouble believing any updates. They stuck with what they heard first, that there was no need to wear a mask unless you’re a healthcare professional.

They couldn’t pivot to the new information that masks were indeed effective and everyone should wear one. Thus they didn’t adapt their behaviors either.

And the virus continued to spread quickly, with many people getting the disease and losing their lives through no fault of their own.

Seeking to uncover our biases is important work. As we’re seeing during these treacherous times, our biases not only hurt us, but they can also prove fatal to others around us. 

May God give us vision to awaken from our biases and see the truth as much as we’re able as we care for each other. 

Featured Post—Waiting Wisely

As we wait for the pandemic to be over (and there is light at the end of this tunnel, thank you, God!), Donna gives us great advice on how to wait well.

“Waiting is not a waste of time. To the contrary, the secret to good self control, contentment in life and any level of success is embracing the ‘wait’. Waiting often proves providential; God never hurries, but is always on time with His answers.”

Read all of Donna’s here at her blog, Serenity in Suffering, then link up your own blog posts below. 

Waiting Wisely with Mindfulness

Thanks for sharing, Donna!

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How quickly or slowly did you accept the reality of a pandemic? Please share in the comments.

You are on Day 26 of the series: “How to Uncover Hidden Biases.”

Uncover Hidden Biases

Previous: Anchoring Bias {Day 25}
“Beware Your Starting Point—Anchoring Bias”

Next: Quotes About Bias {Day 27}
“Think First—5 Quotes About Bias”

5 thoughts on “Living (and Dying) with Our Biases During a Pandemic {Bias Day 26}
+ Grace & Truth Linkup

  1. Carrie

    Good post, Lisa! I see the cohesion here with your word of the year, Uncertainty. The pandemic has surely been hard on so many people. People process information in different ways and at different times. Some are skeptical, which is understandable given none of us have ever been through a global pandemic before. I would also venture to say many never knew of the Spanish flu pandemic of the WWI time frame, which means this is their first exposure to anything like this because the Swine Flu did not get the press as Covid has everyday for over a year. It’s hard on so many fronts. As believers, we offer grace to all of them.

  2. Donna

    Lisa I appreciate the summary of these particular biases here, I really enjoyed this series and found so much helpful, practical information, thank you for putting this all together. I did not have any trouble accepting the pandemic, working in healthcare, we were ahead of the curve and having conversations about this in November 2019, with plans in place long before March. Through life experience and extensive training, I thankfully am able to assess situations like this calmly and react appropriately.
    I greatly appreciate you sharing my post on waiting wisely!!

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